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On The Screen

HHHH: Excellent

HHH: Good

HH: Average

H: Poor

HHH Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Though this silly movie is merely a vehicle for the comedic talent of Jim Carrey, it is genuinely funny. Carrey's facial and vocal caricatures are hilariously fresh, and he shines in this, his first starring role. Playing Ace Ventura, the world's only pet detective, he is hired to track down Snowflake, the Miami Dolphins mascot. The abduction of Dan Marino (as himself) complicates the plot, which is surprisingly interesting, considering the genre of the film. In a cascade of foolhardy blunders and semi-decent detective work, Ace tracks down the perpetrators in his own unique way. Be prepared to laugh a lot at the up-and-coming big-screen comedian. --J. Michael Andresen. Loews Somerville

HHHH In the Name of the Father

Daniel Day-Lewis offers a riveting portrayal of a young man named Gerry Conlon who is convicted, along with friends and family, of an IRA bombing of a British pub in 1974. The film addresses the grave injustice that the British government dealt the Conlons, but it uses the relationship in prison between Gerry and his father Guiseppe (an excellent Pete Postlethwaite) to carry the film's message of hope and redemption. Director Jim Sheridan's pro-Irish bias provides an effective retaliation against England's tendency to make Ireland a scapegoat for the IRA's actions. And Emma Thompson gives a solid performance as the lawyer who struggles to bring freedom to the Conlons. Quite simply, it ranks as one of the best films of 1993. --Scott Deskin. Loews Copley Place

HHH Naked Gun 331/3: The Final Insult

From what was promised to be the final chapter in an unpretentious trilogy, this film was anticipated as a letdown but proved every bit as enjoyable as the first Naked Gun. Leslie Nielsen reprises his role as the inept Lt. Frank Drebin, but he has retired from Police Squad to domestic bliss with his career-minded wife, Jane Spencer-Drebin (Priscilla Presley). The plot, as transparent as ever, centers around a terrorist (Fred Ward), his buxom accomplice (Anna Nicole Smith), and a scheme to neutralize the festivities at the Academy Awards. The film is merely a vehicle for the staggering number of lowbrow references, pratfalls, and sight gags, but nonetheless is a streamlined vehicle which can boast more hits than misses. Sometimes the acting appears more brainless than the plot, but Nielsen's mannerisms and the effective Zucker-Abrams-Zucker production values are appealing and transcendent of the material. For mindless entertainment, it's pretty impressive. --SD. Loews Cheri

HHH Philadelphia

Hollywood's film "about" AIDS is really about discrimination and human dignity. Tom Hanks is the HIV-positive lawyer who alleges he was fired from his prestigious law firm because of AIDS discrimination, and Denzel Washington is the homophobic lawyer that agrees to take his suit to court. The film's power lies in its message, but at times it suffers from Jonathan Demme's heavy-handed direction, mistaking stilted sentiment for raw emotion. Still, the performances of Hanks, Washington, and a fine supporting cast carry the film to a near-triumphant conclusion. --SD. Loews Copley Place

HHH Reality Bites

Finally, here is a twenty-something movie with a message. Winona Ryder stars as a recent college graduate grappling with questions of identity. Following her dream of making documentary films, she interns with a television program and encounters a world of people too self-absorbed to pay her efforts much attention. She meets a nice TV executive named Michael (Ben Stiller), doesn't fall in love, and is forced to choose between having fun with him and having a true connection with her old friend Troy (Ethan Hawke). Through all these trials, the movie still succeeds as a comedy, full of crazy details and witty one-liners. The actors' wonderful performances, as well as insightful writing by Helen Childress and directing by Ben Stiller, make this a very entertaining movie. --Gretchen Koot. Cleveland Circle

HHH The Ref

It isn't The Fugitive, but The Ref does okay in its own right. Denis Leary plays a man running from the law in this comedy by Ted Demme. After goofing up a burglary, Leary's character takes Caroline and Lloyd Chasseur (Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey) hostage while waiting for his escape. The film covers two hours of Leary's attempts to stay on top of his predicament, despite visits from the couple's son and various in-laws. The film is full of funny scenes, most dominated by Leary, but there are also serious moments. Both sides of the spectrum are acted well by the whole cast. --Kamal Swamidoss. Loews Copley Place

HHHH Schindler's List

Director Steven Spielberg triumphs in this historical drama about Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who was responsible for saving the lives of more than a thousand Jews during the Holocaust. Shot almost entirely in black and white, the film takes you to the Poland of the late 30s and early 40s. Neeson is great, carefully portraying the slow change from a man who only cares about money to one who cares only about saving lives. Ben Kingsley perfectly plays Itzhak Stern, Schindler's Jewish accountant who cunningly sidesteps Nazi officials. Ralph Fiennes portrays the unswervingly-loyal Amon Goeth, the Commandant of the Nazi labor camp. Through Fiennes the audience is able to witness the hatred, brutality, and widespread death. Overall the movie is incredibly powerful, and brings to light one of the darkest periods of human history. --Patrick Mahoney. Loews Copley Place

HHH Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

The animation of this film is incredible, as are the characters, though sadly this level of excellence is not matched in the writing or the music. Set in a land where each holiday has its own world, Nightmare gives the account of Jack Skellington, the leader of Halloweentown. Tired of exporting Halloween each year to the "real" world, Jack decides instead to bring Christmas to everyone. His plan includes kidnapping "Sandy Claws" so that he himself may deliver all the toys made for him by the ghouls and goblins in Halloweentown. Unfortunately, his good intentions do not translate into a successful Christmas. The most striking feature of the film is the impeccable animation. The movements of the exremely lank Skellington are impossibly smooth as he dances across the screen. Tim Burton's characters are what make this film truly entertaining, from the ebullient Skellington to the nasty Oogie-Boogie (who wants to eat Santa Claus for dinner). Unfortunately, the plot lacks interesting twists, and the songs lack originality. Despite the flaws, this remains a fun film overall. --JMA. LSC Friday

HHH1/2 What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Bolstered by excellent performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, who received a Golden Globe nomination for his role, and Johnny Depp, this film may be the most honest and original film of the year. Gilbert Grape (Depp) is plagued through much of the film by a nagging ambivalence to the problems in his life. The ways in which he eventually confronts these problems, however, are so subtlely reached that the story can never be accused of plot manipulation or cliche. --SD. Loews Nickelodeon